How a cyclist plays tennis

If you are a cyclist or have spent any amount of time around cyclists, you are going to understand and relate to this question — what is it about cycling that attracts obsessive personality types?  Case in point is my friend, J, who lives and breathes for the next ride (real or virtual), speaks the constant language of bikes and components, supplements his diet with every little supplement that will enhance his performance.  I contributed to his addiction 15 years ago, the person he attributes for getting him back on the bicycle after his hiatus from triathlons.  The guy is a legend in the western burbs of Chicagoland now, a machine on the bike even after undergoing a full knee replacement.  It was funny listening to the commentator at an indoor virtual race this past January, who described J as the $10,000 man and gushed over J as he demolished everyone in his heat.  That race was less than a year after his knee replacement.

The knee replacement is a another example of J’s obsessive trait.  Before the replacement, he spent nearly every waking hour visiting forums to discuss the types of artificial components with other cyclists.  He shared that with his doctor, wanted to make sure that the surgery wouldn’t affect his performance.  It hasn’t.  J is still a beast.  The only change is that now he only races bike/swim events, the knee making it impractical for him to run.

J and I started playing tennis together this past Spring, something I like to do.  This year has been wet, as well, so tennis became a way to exercise when I can’t ride off road or want a break from riding the limestone rails-to-trails paths.  There is a tennis court at my condo clubhouse, next to the pool, so it’s great to play a few hours followed by a dip in the pool.  This summer, we have become a fixture at the court, residents used to seeing us there and many trash talk us from the pool.  As the summer has progressed, we have played more and more, often playing until dark.

J has taken to tennis like he cycles — he can’t wait until the next game.  He has become that little kid who constantly knocks on the front door and asks if Stevie can come out to play.  We played three hours Sunday, then another two last night, the texts taunting me to play (I wanted to be a couch potato last night!!) starting yesterday afternoon.  It was good.  I needed motivation to get out and exercise yesterday, my 5 AM morning commute and the three hours on the court the night before making my body say no to practically everything.  J has bought three new racquets in the last month, various grips, head and wrist sweat bands, a case of tennis balls, new shoes, tennis attire.  He just posted on FB an announcement of his new joy of tennis, named me as his nemesis.  We have people challenging us to play, residents of my condos that want to dethrone me from last year’s doubles tournament title.

It’s all good.  Tennis is fun and my body is used to the extra pounding that comes from hard court exercise.  Despite a slower season on the bike, I am in better shape than I have been in years… I am no longer a shape, I am in shape.

So, I will keep playing tennis with my obsessed buddy until the next thing comes along.  Soon, Zwift season starts for him, but he’s already looking at tennis club memberships…..

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The Kid Is Alright

*smirk* I like the title chosen for today’s blog.  Sometimes, it’s fun to write the title first and hope the content follows along.

The kid really is alright, which means I too am alright, as is his mother.  His mother still is a bit unsure of herself when it comes to raising a male, her experience being raised in a family of eight women with her father the lone male, something that has left her lacking in the male perspective department.  She never really accepted my input as a male, even as she demanded it from me, thus our divorce.  So when she had to let go and let her boy move on to his next stage of independence — college — it was interesting and a bit fun to watch as she tried to control the situation as we moved him in to his dorm suite.  Nate has a way of flat out rejecting that control and it’s something I have not directly witnessed the last two years, due to him living with his mother.  I saw it first hand as we moved him in a week ago.  He’s not mean.  He is actually pretty kind to her, but he has a way of showing that he just wants to do it on his own.

I love seeing that.  The boy has grown a lot in the past two years.  When he needs help, he asks for it, but he tries to do it first before asking.  Nate is learning to take responsibility, something that he sorely needed two years ago when his mother and I split.  I was worried.  But the reason he is at the University of Illinois, studying there on their new free tuition program, is because he took the initiative.  He saved his money to be ready, bought his own Macbook, arranged for his employer to transfer him to their store in Champaign.  I honestly didn’t have to do anything for him besides answer a few questions.. and provide the bicycle that is necessary for him to get around campus.

IMG_20190824_163644244When he asked me about a bicycle and came over to pick it out of the two I offered up to him, he chose this one.  It was my first mountain bike, still in decent shape even after I beat it up on the trails for two years.  I cleaned it up, made sure it was in good condition, added some white wall tires.  Nate bought a combination style cable lock, which I added to the bike after he bought the lock.  Providing the college bike has been my thing, since I did the same for my daughter.

Nate’s U of I education is being provided tuition free, this semester the first it is being offered.  Since his mother filled out the FAFSA, he qualified for the free tuition program because her income and assets meet the criteria to qualify.  I’m not a Bernie Sanders supporter, but it’s nice to have something from my government that I can see as a clear benefit.  Taxes have destroyed my finances the past few years, so I don’t have a problem getting something back on my contribution to my state.

Nate called me during my lunch break this past Friday.  He wanted to know if that bike would be OK to ride off road, as he has some friends who ride mountain bikes.  I told him it probably wouldn’t be a good idea as that bike needs to be his main form of transportation on campus.  It was nice to talk to him, nice to hear he is doing well.  He has friends on campus, something that was part of his criteria for choosing the U of I, and he said he doesn’t plan on coming home any time soon.  I smiled as he asked me when I was coming to visit, wants to know when I (and my brother, Paul, and his family) can come watch a football game with him.

The Sunday morning that Nate and I moved him, I followed him in my car as he drove the car his sister is loaning him.  She doesn’t need her car, as it was stored at my place while she works in Turkey during the school year, so she kindly is allowing him to use it.  We arrived early, shopped for groceries at Walmart, then I followed him to his dorm suite.  At Walmart, he tried to talk me into buying beer for him.  I declined, told him that it’s not going to be difficult getting beer in a college town.  I don’t want to be the one to buy it for him.

His mother might be moving to a smaller, one bedroom apartment soon.  When he does come home, he might be living with me, another big step…..

Tales of a Moneypit

When I turned the key to start the VW, the engine turned over in a way that seemed like it wasn’t engaging.  The motor started, but ran very rough, as if it was going to die any minute.  Moments before, I had talked with my friend Jim about how the VW just needed to last me another year or so, the $7000 I owed yet on the car preventing me from trading it.  The VW wasn’t worth much, but I chose to spend another $900 at the beginning of the month to get it running right, with the hope that it would be reliable for the 30 mile commute I would be starting on the 19th.  Honestly, it felt like I was betting against the odds, the history of the car in the somewhat brief 3.5 years it had been mine proof that there wasn’t much life left in it.  I took to calling the car “VW Moneypit” rather than Tiguan, my way of deflecting the frustration of spending roughly $12,000 to keep the car running.

The uneven lope of the engine as I left the restaurant’s parking lot seemed like a struggle to stay alive, the last few gasps of someone who just wanted to make it home before they give up the ghost.  Thankfully, the restaurant my friends and I choose for our Friday night “therapy” is only a few minutes from my house, two stoplights.  At each stoplight on the way home, I found myself praying that the car would get me home.  Despite the car’s history, it always managed to get me home, refused to strand me on the side of the road.  VW designs a limp into their cars, I think.  That’s great, because their cars NEED that feature.  True to design, the Moneypit crawled into my driveway, begging for mercy until I turned the key to shut it down.

I waiting a few seconds before I turned the key again.  Just as before, the engine spun without engaging, this time not engaging at all, not starting.

Oh noooooo…. not now, you turd.  I have to start my new job on Monday, have to commute 60 miles.  Don’t do this!

But it was doing it.  After a few minutes of trying to start the car, letting it rest, then trying again, I knew that trying to start the car was futile.  I called my mechanic and left him a woeful message (he’s used to it from me) that I would be having the car towed to him over the weekend.  Resigned, I locked the car up, told my friend and her son my plan (they had walked up while I was trying to start the car).  I was taking my friend to the airport the next day, Saturday, for her two week trip to Italy (lucky her).  We would have to take her car, instead of mine.  Fortunately for me, that meant I had a vehicle at my disposal.  I would like to say it’s chance that she just happened to be leaving and didn’t need her car, but sometimes I think it’s God’s way of showing me he has my back.  Through the whole challenge with the car, I had a peace and trust from experience that all would work out.

It did, but I don’t want to get ahead of myself.

Short story on the VW Moneypit — my mechanic confirmed on the following Monday that the timing chain had slipped and the valves were damaged.  Fixing the engine would require a new head and more, a very expensive proposition.  He left me with encouragement, told me he would hang on to the car until I figured things out.

So I did indeed figure things out, although it took some fortitude to take the steps I needed to take.  Monday evening, I visited the CarMax dealership where I had purchased the Moneypit and several other vehicles.  They really weren’t interested in helping me, told me that the $7000 I owed on the VW would make it tough to trade the car.  If I could have the car towed to them, it might help the situation.

Seriously?  Bull puckey!  They didn’t need the car to work on a solution.  It was just a tactic to force me to make them my only choice.

I have been considering car replacements for a while, knowing that the VW Moneypit wasn’t long for this world.  At the top of my list was the Subaru Crosstrek.  Everything I had read talked about its reliability.  As a mountain biker, it has the utility I need for my bike and stuff.

Long story short — the local Subaru dealership, after about an hour of back and forth negotiation, found a payment solution I can accept.

So, here is my new-to-me ride, a used 2016 Subaru Crosstrek!  It’s black, which is not the color I wanted.  These cars are hard to come by as they are very popular.

 

On 50% Pay Cuts

One bit of information that I failed to include in yesterday’s blog — my now previous employer decided against the unpaid furlough for August.  As I said, Dave (my boss) tends to be a pessimist.  Although the subsidiary was having a substandard year, we were definitely busy and money was coming in.  Key to the substandard year was the loss or poor performance of several critical customers.  Our sales to smaller customers was up, something that kept me very busy — and one of the reasons (if my guess is correct) that my boss opted to ask me to accept a 50% pay cut for the month of August, with a chance the pay cut would continue into October.  Come October or until the cash situation improved, I would then have to be willing to accept a 20% pay cut.

I am certain Dave knew what would happen, probably intended for it to happen as the loss of my salary expense would free up more cash in the subsidiary’s shrinking cash account.  There are doubts that will make that much of a difference, but it is what it is.  Along with the 50% cut in pay went a change to a cut in hours, so my last days with the company, basically the first two weeks of August, were spent working half days.  My personal cash flow isn’t that great either, but I had enough put aside to survive a month.  With my new job, my first paycheck will also be complimented by my final check from my now previous employer, who has to pay me for the 7 days of vacation I didn’t take this year.

I also took one more trip for the company before I said adios.  At Dave’s suggestion, I traveled by car to Duluth for a few days and spent a few days with a sales rep there.  A steel plant, more accurately ‘mine’, had just bought several transmitters and controllers from the company and required training.  That was one of my responsibilities, something Dave does not and can not do, so he took advantage of me still being on board during my two week’s notice.  The sales rep likes to mountain bike, a reason for me to want to make the trip.  I made Wednesday a travel day, met him at my hotel mid afternoon and headed to the Piedmont and Brewer’s Park trails for a ride that evening.  We visited the mine the next day, spent all day there, then I rode the same trails again.  Friday was my day, so I spent five hours that day riding the COGGS Mission Creek trails.. a thoroughly relaxing and wonderful ride.  There was just enough challenge to those trails, a well marked system that didn’t over tax me physically, even with the amount of climbing this flat lander was subjected to.

When I find the pictures I took from the trail, I want to share them here.  There were some very cool, as well as scenic, trails in the Duluth area.  Hats off to COGGS, as I was very impressed with every trail I rode there.  I didn’t ride the downhill at Spirit Mountain, which I wanted to do, but I was very happy with the challenges at each trail.

My VW Moneypit (aka Tiguan) required a $900 repair before I left for Duluth.  There is more to that story, but I will just leave it there for now.  In the 3.5 years I have had that car, I have spent roughly $12,000 to keep it running.  That doesn’t include money spent on tires and routine maintenance, or the oil that the turbo engine consumed greedily.  It used a quart or more of oil with each tank of gas, more if I took a road trip.  On the Duluth trip, it used two quarts of oil.

Season of Change

Change amidst challenges is definitely the theme of the past two months, a whirlwind of what-do-I-do-now with the potential of peril.  Life is that way, at least it is for me.  Lately, it’s almost been necessary for me to wear a thick glove on my right hand, lest I scratch another hole in my head.

I’m right handed.  Most likely left brained (and I don’t know what that means).  I try to do my best to find the blessings amid the chaos, see God’s hand whenever I can, yet let the wails come out in private when the burdens seem to get too much.  The worries wash out with the tears most of the time.  Tears also take away the crud that keep me from being honest with myself and with God, and I welcome the tears that come because I often am able to make a decision when my soul is washed clean, when I am open to listen more to what God is trying to help me see.

I’m also melodramatic when I write.  If you continue to read on, you will see that it’s not that bad.  God has provided.  The blessings have prevailed.

One afternoon in June, my boss sauntered (actually, he shuffled.. that’s what he does) into my office, pulled up the little chair I keep in the corner in front of my desk so that he could lean on the front of my desk.  It was obvious what news he was about to impart, although the request was a bit outrageous, I suppose.  Dave is a pessimist, his cup always bitter, so he sees the dark side of a situation.  In the five years that I worked for him, he was always that way.  Our subsidiary office is having a bad year, the first since I started working for the company, and the first time we haven’t been the number one subsidiary globally.  I have heard Dave complain, moan, worry, fret all year about our numbers.  So, when he sat down in front of me, I had a good idea of the request he was going to make.

“Steve, it looks like we are only going to have enough cash to pay salaries until the end of July.  You are going to need to consider taking an unpaid furlough for the month of August.”

There was a lot more behind that request than Dave was letting on.  Ownership in Budapest thinks the Americans, especially yours truly, get paid too much.  They weren’t going to support us in our down year, and they were looking for a way to get me to accept at least a 20% pay cut.  Even better, ownership wanted me to be replaced with someone who would work for quite a bit less, travel and work as outside sales (odd, since I do perform that task and wear many more hats — and also because we have sales reps who sell for us).  But, well, in five years I also know how ownership thinks.  When I was offered Dave’s position last October, to be assumed in three years when he retires, the owner explained that he prefers to promote from within, said that he doesn’t have to pay someone as much when he does that (yes, he said basically that).

My reaction?  Updated my resume that evening, applied for several jobs right away.  My focus was on a job opportunity that a friend has been strongly encouraging me to consider.  It was that job opportunity that I accepted.  Today starts my second week with that company, a fresh new environment with a much larger company.  I get to learn new things in an industry different than I have been in the last thirty years — and I love it!

More to come.  It’s time to head down the street and clock in!

The Path

I did not choose divorce because I wanted to be happy.  I chose divorce because I didn’t want to continue to be not happy.  There is a difference.  Unless you have been there, you won’t understand the difference.  When my wife and I sold our home a little over two years ago, separated and went our separate ways, I knew there was a tough road ahead, maybe more difficult than the crooked and uphill one I had been travelling for years.  And that was it.. I was tired.  The pain of climbing that road had become too much, and I knew that it would do nothing but continue the same way if I didn’t make the choice to take a different path, one that wouldn’t guarantee happiness, but maybe just maybe there would be relief.

There wasn’t another woman to turn to, no one pulling me away from my marriage of nearly 25 years.  Changing the path meant making an extremely difficult decision, one that I contemplated for years.  It meant losing a life that I knew and was comfortable with, estranging myself from in laws and nieces and nephews that I truly love, risking friendships and developing new ones.  I was Uncle Steve, a guy those nieces and nephews admired.  Suddenly I was no longer Uncle Steve — my status was former.  I miss them, miss watching them become adults, miss fawning over their children.  That was part of the happiness that was my marriage.  I knew I would lose that.  That is part of the sadness.

Oddly enough, I am glad that I have found out who my true friends are.  There have been people who look at me like an evil person who had left their friend.  That judgement is part of any divorce, for that is what happens — judgement.  There are the mutual friends who treat me the same now as they did before, I suppose they are the ones who made it through the character sifter, and I see that as a blessing.  Truthfully, a lot of time can be wasted on superficial relationships, and difficult times have shown me the good ones.  New friendships have developed, some of them renewed friendships, relationships that now feel like a true gift, as if I needed something to help me realize the value of true friends.

I have a lot of them.

I am a Christian, the #2 reason why the decision to divorce took so long in coming.  I had to figure out that God hates divorce because of what it does to me, not because it’s a sin.  He reached out to me during the heart wrenching times of the last few years of my marriage, through the loneliness and frustration.  I found it really hard to take God’s hand during that time, often enough I couldn’t.  Oh, I thought I was reaching out to him and I cried (and screamed) plenty to God.  During that time, I felt a gap, a vastness of separation from God.  Really, it was that pain that I honestly wanted to carry myself that wasn’t creating that gap.  Only when I made the decision that I needed to make… yes, I needed to make… was I able to approach God.  He is always there, always calling, always wanting me to come to him and it took laying down that burden at his feet before I begin to be not happy.  I had to learn to recognize God’s presence again, his constant blessings.  I am not one to say the things happen for a reason.  I honestly don’t think that is what God is about.  I think God is about showing me the way when I look to him, before and after and during the good times as well as the hard times.  Divorce changed the way I approach God, affected the way I trust him, renewed my ability to tell him thanks every day, helped me to see him in a different light.  He made me in his image, after all, and there is no way he hates his own creation.

That brings me to the #1 reason divorce was such a difficult decision — my wife and my children.  Yes, my wife.  A lot of people leave that out.  It’s not that I stopped loving her.  It’s that it hurt so much to love someone who could not, would not respect me.  Yes, I didn’t want to hurt my children, as well.  I wanted to and still want to be the best father I can be.  I tried very, very, very hard to be that father.  My wife would not let me be the father I wanted to be, would not support me as the father I wanted to be, got in the way and resented me in many ways.  I knew that divorcing would damage the relationship I have with my children for a while, but that it would also give me a chance for them to have a relationship with me without her influence.  I have seen my relationship change with my children over the last two years — most of it is good.  There is still healing that needs to take place, but that toxicity that existed two years ago barely exists now.

What is life like now?  It took over a year on my own before I could feel myself beginning to heal.  Separation felt like jumping into an ice cold pool of water.  There was no wading in.  That was what it took, because I had spent the last few years of my marriage dipping my big toe into the water, afraid of the cold reality.  I jumped in and it indeed it was a shock that took some getting used to.  However, I was in up to my neck, so I had to deal with it.  I had to get used to being by myself, find ways to reach out to people, learn to make new friends.  I have.  Slowly, I am learning to accept my status as a divorced man.  I am not sure it will ever feel completely right.  But, well, not happy has become at peace.. and I needed that so much.

Dating as a newly single 58 year old man is different.  I didn’t waste too much time trying that out.  Most men are that way, I think.  The only thing is that I really didn’t know what I wanted, just that it had been so long since I had someone close to me.  Shortly after my divorce, I met someone online and dated her for a little over a year.  I learned my lessons from her, good lessons, got to experience the life of dating as an “adult”.  I also learned a little about what I want in a relationship, and that I am not really ready for a new wife.  After that year of dating, I got to be the scum bucket who did the breaking up.  That wasn’t easy!  I swore that I was done with online dating — the pressure of a serious relationship is just too great with online dating (at least it is for me).  I have a profile, but don’t use it.  A few months after the break up, I started casually dating a neighbor of mine, someone who I have been getting to know since I moved into my condo two years ago.  It’s been a good thing, although it was a bit scary at first.  She lives in the building next door.  I like her, enjoy that she gives me my space (which seems ironic since she lives so close), am not feeling the pressure to jump into a serious relationship.  Oh, I get my hugs and kisses from her, but I don’t see a ring on my finger in the near future.  It’s nice to have a friend who enjoys getting to know me, fits me very well,… and respects me.

It’s my hope that my children will learn to let me be with someone.  They are not ready yet.  I know it’s different for everyone.  Some children want to see their parent enjoy dating again, others need a lot of time before they can accept that.  It’s OK.  I just hope that some day they will.  I am not going back to their mother.  It’s so obvious now that we, the both of us, needed that change.

Lots to learn.  The path is leveling off, becoming more and more straight as I journey on.

Puddletrack

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Too bad my fat bike doesn’t float.  The tires are large, but they are not buoyant.  Here in northern Illinois, we are having one of the wettest Spring seasons on record.  For off road bicyclists such as myself, that can be frustrating.  It’s not good for most people.  The trails closest to me are next to a river, are built on and in between berms that are swampy even during the dry seasons.  For more than a month, they have not been rideable.

SWK swampSome people don’t care, judging from the damage to the trails.  This picture was taken a few days ago.  It’s obvious that there are quite a few people who just rode through it.  The section pictured is a the bottom of the trail head connector.  I am surprised that it wasn’t blocked.  When I rode last night, it was still a quagmire though no longer covered with water.  I turned around and entered the trail from another connector.  Riding mud is not fun, plus it screws with a bike.

We had a few days without much rain.  Most of the trails were in great shape last night, although I still had to be careful, had to avoid some trails.  Last Sunday afternoon, I rode another trail system in the Chicago area with some friends.  They were scary difficult, rocky with steep and twisty descents/climbs.  My new bike, a carbon Salsa Deadwood SLX with 29+ wheels (2.6 tires, for now) helped give me the confidence to at least attempt everything.  Three hours of riding and I was satisfied, not as tired as I could have been.  Even though off road cycling has not been a viable option for the past month, I have been riding.

My fat tired bike has proved to be an entertaining riding option.  Pretty much out my front door are forest preserves and rails-to-trails paths, so I have been riding 4-5 days a week on those trails.  There is an old landfill a few minutes away, now a recreational area, that has added an option for climbing.  There is more resistance to riding paths, especially on a fat tired bike, so I feel stronger now than ever.  I ain’t no stud, but I ain’t no slouch either.  Of course, my roadie friends have helped me a little.  We have ventured out on the path the past two Wednesdays, rode to a little craft brewery to participate in their trivia night (third place the first time we trivia’d), then trekked home with lights.  It’s tremendous fun!

When it rains on my cycling parade, I make my own parade, I guess.

Another gully washer this afternoon.  Rats.

I Get to Look at Tall Buildings

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…and I looked at them in a single bound.

*insert rim shot*

Chicago can be a cool and interesting place, even to a small town bumpkin such as yours truly.  Generally, even though I live within spitting distance of the city, a western suburbanite who prefers the peaceful serenity of the burbs,  I turn up my nose at the city, pooh pooh the noise and grime and crowds and intrusiveness that comes with urban life.  Until I get a chance to embrace city life, experience it vicariously through friends or an unique adventure, I bad mouth city life in the spirit of true ignorance.  Saturday was a day where I was treated to an adventure that showed me the city in a unique light.  Even though I will never want to live there, I can appreciate Chicago a bit more.

A friend invited me to join her for a trip into the city to take an architecture tour of Chicago via boat.  She lured me by offering to pay for the day, a treat for my birthday.  I’m old and cheap, so it’s easy to tempt me with cheap inexpensive entertainment.  Besides, the Chicago architecture boat tour has always been intriguing to me, so no real temptation was necessary, no pied piper.  We took the train into Ogilvie station early in the morning, the trip not only fun because it’s not something I do every day, but it was unique in another way — for some reason the porter passed by us the entire trip.  It was if we were invisible.  We exited the train at Ogilvie, puzzled by the strange behavior of the porter, thankful to have saved $20 on the train trip.  As it turned out, we had to buy tickets at the station for the trip home — $14.87, so our transportation was $5 less than planned.

Planning comes natural to Lisa, a certification administrator for a hospital network.  She also is a Groupon junkie, thus the cheap inexpensive boat tour.  It was a deal.  The walk to the boat was a fairly long trek from Ogilvie station, but Lisa knew how long it would take us to get there.   Along the way, we would use a gift card to purchase coffee and breakfast, at an Einstein bagel restaurant on the route to the boat dock, a restaurant that Lisa had located prior to our trip together.  As I found out during the course of the day, it was a much better experience to go to the city with someone who knows the city and has a plan.

Viewing Chicago from the river and Lake Michigan lends a whole new perspective to the city.  It looks more wide open, for one thing, an opportunity to view the intimidating behemoths towering straight above from a much less restrictive view.  I was able to see the characteristics of each part of the city, witness the inhabitants enjoying the city in a different way.  The boat took a route that entered the river from the river side of the lock at Navy pier, east of Lake Shore drive.  There are no skyscrapers save one east of Lake Shore drive, something that Montgomery Ward lobbied for nearly 100 years ago and what adds to the beauty of the city.  So as we approached the city on the Chicago river from the east side of Lake Shore, we were able to take in the awesome approach of the expanse of the buildings from an outside vista, as if the city was a natural part of the horizon.  It belongs there.

Even the Trump tower belongs.  Built in 2009 to blend in with the curves of the river and the city around it, the tower adds an elegance to the view.  Unlike its namesake, it’s neither garish nor rude.  True to Chicago, it adds to the history, fits with the architectural era it was built to fill (post modernism).  That is what makes the architecture of Chicago so rich — its buildings tell a story, show a little what life was like in each stage of its history.  There are so many iconic buildings in Chicago — the Hancock, Willis (Sears) tower, Merchandise mart, NBC tower, River towers, Vista (will be the tallest woman designed building in the world), Monadnock,.. just to name a few.  To be able to view these buildings from a historical perspective, often with several eras side by side, adds to the pure enjoyment of the tour.

The boat cruised the main channel as we viewed the expanse that surrounded us, yet did not encroach, turned south as we learned the story of the Chicago fire that devasted that part of the city, then turned north to witness some of the history of gentrified warehouses turned upper end residential.  At the end of the tour, the boat swung out towards the lake, then back to give an excellent picture of Chicago’s skyline.IMG_20190608_132041868_HDR

It was a treat.  I have lived close to Chicago nearly my entire life, a suburbanite the last thirty or so years.  Until now, my idea of the city was a large looming hodge podge that closed me in, that offered no true value in terms of peace or serenity.  My opinion was closed minded, I knew and know.  That’s just it — I am human, influenced by what I know, which is the open prairie with it’s flat, wide open, free space.  The city made me feel claustrophobic.  Now I see that someone who truly loves the city does not need to feel that way.

Tour over, we headed towards Navy Pier, a tourist area with a huge ferris wheel that extends out into Lake Michigan.  I was promised a special surprise, a treat.  When I saw it, my eyes became saucers — Rainbow ice cream, layers of different flavors scooped into one cone or cup.  Chocolate, pistachio, butter pecan, cherry, strawberry, and topped by orange sherbet.  It was INCREDIBLE.  We found a place inside the pier mall to enjoy our treat, walked the shops.  My other treat there was to ham it up on one of those screens with a camera that captures the viewer, places a goofy hat and mask on them.  I probably spent way too much time messing with that.

From there, we walked to the Little Italy area of Chicago.  Chicago is like many cities, with sections that reflect an ethnic flavor, one of the characteristics of the city that adds a richness.  We had reservations at an old style italian restaurant, downed fresh pasta (gnocchi for me) with plenty of garlic spread on fresh bread and a little bit of wine.  It was a terrific way to cap the day.

Instead of walking back to Ogilvie station to catch the train back to the western burbs, we summoned a Lyft driver.  After close to 22,000 steps (nearly 9 miles), we both were beat.  Our driver dropped us off at the station with ten minutes to spare before the train was scheduled to leave.  We arrived home with an evening left to share, spent outside with more wine on my balcony, waiting for the bats to fly overhead at dusk.

Yes, bats.  It’s not creepy at all.  Rather, they are fun to watch as they weave towards the river close by, going home after a day spent away.  Perhaps they are checking out the city as well?

 

Every Parent

FB_IMG_1559065784800She’s in her element, enjoying the job and place so much that it’s easy to see it’s her life.  The Spring concert for her students was a success, so much of her personality poured into the presentation — a ukelele duet with another teacher, the Imperial March conducted with a light saber, a flute solo accompanied by her students.

As a parent, this is not just a dream to see my daughter flourish, it’s a gift.